Staff Picks for Children

 Recommended books for kids. Comment on a review by clicking on its title. You can also write your thoughts about any book on our Facebook Wall.

You can still access reviews from pre-September 2012 for Adults and Children.

Hide and Seek

(2013)
Hide and Seek

 

Japanese author/illustrator Taro Gomi has hidden all sorts of normal objects such as gloves, hearts, socks, scooters, and flags inside pictures for a look and find experience for the very young.  The pictures are challenging but not too challenging for a young toddler or preschool child.  A wonderful book to share as a lap book, or during storytime to see who can spot the item first.

 

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The Boy and the Airplane

(2013)
The Boy and the Airplane

 

In this sparsely illustrated wordless book The Boy and the Airplane, a young boy is playing with his red airplane.  Until it gets stuck on the roof of a building.  Oh no!  He tries a few times to get it down using a ladder, a lasso, a baseball, a pogo stick, and a hose.  While contemplating underneath a tree a tiny helicopter maple seed falls into his hand.  He takes a shovel and plants the seed next to the building.  He waits as he grows taller and older until the tree is strong enough to climb.  The boy is now an older man with a long white beard who still finds joy in playing with his plane, but finds joy in doing something more.  I enjoyed the pencil and watercolor illustrations. 

My only question took place at the beginning.  Why didn't the boy find a taller ladder in the first place?

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Miracle Mud

Lena Blackburne and the Secret Mud that Changed Baseball (2013)
Miracle Mud

 

I'm not a huge fan of baseball, but this book drew me in immediately.  Lena Blackburne wanted to be a famous baseball player, but he just wasn't that good.  So he became a coach instead.  All along, there had been problems with the baseballs.  I learned from this book that brand new balls are too shiny for players to see, so players tried all sorts of methods to make the balls less shiny, such as soaking the balls in dirty water, using shoe polish, spit, or tobacco juice.  One day when Lena was fishing he stepped in the mud and got a great idea--why not use the mud on the baseballs?  After rubbing mud on the baseballs, letting it dry, and wiping it off, the balls were no longer shiny!  Lena started selling the mud and the mud became the only thing allowed on major league baseballs--no shoe polish or spit allowed anymore.  While Lena Blackburne never made it into the Baseball Hall of Fame for his playing, his mud did end up in the Hall of Fame. 

An author's note at the end of the book gives much more information about mud farming and about Lena Blackburne.

I was fascinated by this book and hope you will be too.

 

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Alphasaurs and Other Prehistoric Types

(2012)
Book cover

Hi, everyone! My name is Miss Kristi (a.k.a. the new Library Assistant in Children’s Services). With my reviews, you will find a lot of picture books, books about art, books to film and YA fiction. To get us started, I recently read Alphasaurs and Other Prehistoric Types by Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss. Awesome doesn’t even begin to describe this book!

Werner and Forss explored the worlds of dinosaurs, the alphabet and typography. Each page reveals a new dinosaur (in alphabetical order of course) constructed with its corresponding letter. For example, Werner and Forss designed the brachiosaurus with the letter “b.” By using different font sizes, colors and boldness, the dinosaurs take on an unexpected three-dimensionality.

Readers discover a phonetic pronunciation of the dinosaur’s name, when the dinosaur lived, and what it ate. The authors included numerous fun facts full of alliteration relating to the corresponding letter. For example, Werner and Forss wrote, “Hydrotherosaurus was as heavy as a hippopotamus.”

Alphasaurs is a solid read for the school aged. And, as Miss Kathleen said, “This book is great for adults to brush up on their dinosaurs, too!” If you have enjoyed Alphasaurs and Other Prehistoric Types, be sure to check out Alphabeasties and Other Amazing Types or Bugs by the Numbers: Facts and Figures for Multiple Types of Bugbeasties.

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The Flavor of Wisconsin for Kids

(2012)
The Flavor of Wisconsin For Kids

From brats on the grill and festival fare to fresh farm market fruits and veggies, food is an essential part of summer fun in Wisconsin.  Savor the flavors with this feast of fun facts, history and recipes by local food expert Allen and local history writer Malone.

Many of the recipes feature native fish and game, produce from farm fields, gardens and orchards, wild food from forests and waterways, as well as foods processed in the state.  Although written for kids,  most recipes are challenging enough for families to work together (with plenty of safety tips), or for grownups to enjoy cooking basics.  Each recipe is rated with a visual key with spoon-shaped icons, from easy (1 spoon) to challenging (3 spoons),  I tried the lumberjack-style “Cookee’s Biscuits,” (2 spoons) and the wild rice pudding with cherries (1 spoon).  Success!  One quibble: I was hoping for a cherry pie recipe to match the inviting cover art, but found none.

The recipes are mixed well with a huge helping of photographs, history and facts about farms and farm markets, community gardens, cheese making and other food industries, native culture and foods, origins of food traditions, popular attractions such as Old World Wisconsin, the history of food preservation, and more!  The many ethnic and cultural groups settling in the state over the years are represented well in the text and photos, and the recipes include a variety of traditional foods from German and Polish, to Hmong and Mexican.

Learn how cranberries got their name, and a fun way to test them for freshness!  Missed the state fair this year?  Make your own cream puffs!  What is schmorn?  Find out!

Whether you are inspired by the “Food” exhibit at the History Museum at the Castle, need an idea on what to fix with your goodies from the Downtown Appleton Farm Market, or want to find out more about the variety and bounty the state has to offer, the “Flavor” is worth a taste!

Recommended for ages 9 and up.

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Darkfall

(2011)
book cover for Darkfall

Book III of The Healing Wars Trilogy

Darkfall is the final book in the Healing Wars Trilogy. When the story opens we find that Tali has been missing for several months, Nya, Danello, Aylin, and the underground resistance are hiding out from the Duke at Jeatar’s farm.  All Nya wants is to find her sister and return home.  But she is sucked into the war which the Duke is waging in order to reclaim the throne as his own.  Thus Nya and her friends leave to warn Gevg that the Duke is coming with his army of Undying soldiers, trained to inflict pain.  Along the way, they manage to find Tali, brain-washed by the Duke, as well as Vyand, the bounty hunter.  But with the Duke fast approaching, will Nya and her friends be able to help?  Can Nya live up to the expectations of the people as a hero and leader as well as helping her sister, and find a way to protect Geve?   

Full of fast-paced action, intense drama and many twists and turns in the plot, and epic battle scenes this story finds Nya as the unintentional hero behind the war against the Duke.  With her friends by her side she once more steps into the heart of danger and does her best to fight back.  The story is about war and what happens in a war.  Not everyone is going to survive, some may be hurt, some may even die, and sometimes you have to do terrible things to survive and defeat the enemy.  Nya is constantly making choices about how she should and should not use her unique powers.  She learns all of these lessons and finally becomes the confident and mature person that is the guiding force for the people to follow. 

The plot and the main charaters are very similar to the Mockingjay, the third book of the Hunger Games trilogy, except it is not as violent.  Nya, like Katniss, has become the symbol of hope for her people and must become a leader.  Despite everything there is hope at the end of the book.  Things end on a positive note.  Nya earns her place in the world as the hero of the rebellion.   

This is definitely a series I would recommend.  I would recommend this series to grades 5th through 9th grade. 

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The Day the Crayons Quit

(2013)
The day the crayons quit

 

This book made me laugh out loud, and not many books can make me do that.  When Duncan looks for his crayons, he finds letters instead.  Each letter is written by one of the crayons, pleading with him to treat it a little differently.  The red crayon needs a rest, purple desperately needs to see Duncan color within the lines, beige just wants a little respect.  Blue crayon wants a break, green is worried about his friends, and peach is embarrassed about having lost its wrapper.  Duncan of course finds a way to make all the crayons happy, and make his teacher happy too.  This book received starred reviews from  Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal, and I loved it too.  I would be happy to share this book with a group of school age children who would understand the book perfectly.

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Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great (2013)

Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great

 

 

By the author of Dinosaur vs. Bedtime and I’m a Shark, Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great is a hilarious and insightful look at friendship.

When Unicorn moves to town, Goat finds himself feeling less and less awesome by comparison. After all, it’s hard to compete with someone who has an amazing horn, knows how to fly and can turn things into gold. Frustrated, Goat turns a plunger into a pretend horn and prances around scoffing, “Look at me! I’m Unicorn! I think I’m so-o-o cool!” Flopping down to enjoy a slice of goat cheese pizza, Goat is shocked when, drawn by the amazing smell, Unicorn dances over. Suddenly, the tables are turned as Goat realizes Unicorn is just as frustrated.  How can Unicorn compete with creamy delicious goat cheese pizza, fantastic cloven hooves and two curvy horns? Before long an understanding is reached and an unstoppable duo is born.

A delightful look at friendship from both sides of the fence and a gentle reminder that everyone has something to celebrate, this hilarious picture book is both great fun and could also serve as an introduction to discussions on friendship and differences.

 

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Brief Thief

(2013)
Brief Thief

 

Books about underwear rarely fail to amuse.  This book is no exception.  Leon, a lizard, has to go to the bathroom, but discovers there is no toilet paper left.  He does notice hanging from a tree an old holey pair of underwear.  He uses those and throws them into a bush.  His conscience then takes over.  What if those underwear had belonged to someone?  What if they had been left hanging there by someone to dry?  Leon begins to scrub the underwear until they are clean, and feeling good about himself again, goes on his way.  Turns out those holes had a meaningful purpose...and you'll have to read the book to find out what it was.  I laughed out loud at this book and was thoroughly disgusted (while wildly amused at the same time) by the ending.  Highly entertaining for children in kindergarten and up.

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Louisa May's Battle

How the Civil War Led to Little Women (2013)
Louisa May's Battle

 

Louisa May Alcott fit the army's requirements to be a nurse during the Civil War: be at least thirty years old, plain in appearance, unmarried, strong, and two letters about her character.  Many people disapproved of women working as nurses during this time; most nurses were men.  When Louisa arrived at the hospital where she would work, she discovered "a breeding ground for germs--overcrowded, damp, dark, airless, its broken windows nailed shut and blocked with curtains to keep out the cold."  She took care of patients who were suffering from measles, pneumonia, and typhoid fever.  Then, after The Battle of Fredericksburg, she discovered the horrors of war as she saw the wounded men. 

Three weeks into her work Louisa became seriously ill with typhoid fever.  A stubborn woman, she refused to leave, until her father came to take her home.  She was ill for two full months.  After her illness Louisa took up writing full time in an effort to raise money to pay bills and support her family.  When asked to write a "girl's" book, she was skeptical but dashed it off.  It became the bestseller known as Little Women

An author's note at the end of the book tells about other well known women who worked in medicine during the 1800s such as Dorothea Dix, Clara Barton, and Elizabeth Blackwell. 

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TJ Zaps the New Kid

Stopping a Social Bully (2013)
TJ Zaps the New Kid

 

The new series TJ Trapper, Bully Zapper, by Lisa Mullarkey published by Magic Wagon is a nice addition to all of the anti-bullying material being published right now.  In TJ Zaps the New Kid, said new kid Livvy is a social bully, who says and does unkind things to her classmates.  When TJ tries to report Livvy's bullying to his teacher he is reprimanded for tattling, and TJ struggles to find another way to end Livvy's bullying. 

The back of the book includes four tips on how to be a bully zapper:  report (this is not the same as tattling), change the subject, ask why, and speak up for your friends. 

There are five more TJ Trapper books dealing with bullies:  the silent treatment, cell phone bullies, gossip, blackmail, and physical bullying.

 

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